Account Freezing and Forfeiture Orders

Our team of highly skilled white-collar and financial crime lawyers at XT 24 has extensive experience leading investigations into financial crimes and representing individuals subject to such inquiries.

We provide our clients with a personalized and insightful strategy to offer them the best chance of averting investigations at the earliest stage possible. With experience on both sides of the legal spectrum, our XT 24 team fully comprehends the significance of engaging with relevant agencies (if appropriate) and challenging any order as necessary. We consistently offer expert legal and practical advice tailored to the commercial needs and context of each individual client.

Account Freezing and Forfeiture Orders

At XT 24, we guide individuals and businesses at every stage, including how to avoid an account freezing order, how to challenge one if issued, and how to respond to an account forfeiture notice or order if required.

Furthermore, we also provide advice to individuals and businesses who discover that their accounts have been frozen or closed by their bank.

What are Account Freezing and Forfeiture Orders?

An account freezing order, under UK law, is a mechanism that allows enforcement agencies to freeze funds if, on the balance of probabilities, there are reasonable grounds to suspect they are the proceeds of a crime or intended for use in unlawful conduct.

The purpose of imposing such an order is to facilitate an investigation into the origin of the funds and prevent them from being disposed of in the meantime. In some circumstances, law enforcement agencies can make the application without notice.

How concerned should I be about an Account Freezing Order?

In short, very concerned.

The threshold for law enforcement agencies to impose an account freezing order is low. There is no requirement for a prior criminal conviction, which involves a much higher standard of proof. In some cases, an order may be imposed in the absence of a criminal prosecution or even a criminal investigation. All that is required is reasonable suspicion. This could be based on unusual account activity reported by a bank under its anti-money laundering procedures, even when the activity itself is entirely lawful.

The imposition of an account freezing order can have far-reaching consequences. An order may be imposed for up to two years and can have devastating commercial implications, both financially and reputationally, even when the eventual outcome is a finding that there was no wrongdoing.

What is an Account Forfeiture Order?

After completing investigations, a law enforcement agency may apply for some or all of the funds to be forfeited. It may do this by issuing an account forfeiture notice, where it believes forfeiture is likely to be contested, or by applying for an account forfeiture order.

What happens next?

Such an application must be made on notice to the affected party and will be heard in the magistrates’ court. Before granting the order, the magistrates’ court must be satisfied that the funds are the proceeds of crime or are intended for use in unlawful conduct. Although these resemble criminal proceedings, there is no prerequisite for a criminal conviction, and the standard of proof is the balance of probabilities.

At this stage, it is highly recommended to have legal representation.

If you are concerned about any of the above, or for more information about us and our Criminal Litigation, Investigations, and Regulatory services, please contact an XT 24 team member who will be able to assist.

Interpol Compliance Specialist
Litigation Support Analyst